Terrorism and espionage in Argentina’s Jewish community – Australian Jewish News

More than 30 years after overseeing the conversion of an attractive Argentinian young man with a Jewish wife to Judaism, Rabbi Mauricio Baltar is what his former students looked like. I know it’s not.

The student was also a spy.

José Perez, who changed his name to Yoshi when he converted in 1988, was secretly sent by the government to confirm anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about Argentine Jews. He eventually came to believe that his reconnaissance facilitated his 1990s bombing in Buenos Aires that killed more than 100 Jews.

now the story book, Remorseful Spy, Yoshibecame an Amazon TV series of the same name – and it is a source of shock to his former rabbi.

“He was a very good candidate to become a Jew,” said Rabbi Balter. “He was open with me. Now I know he was a good actor too.”

first season of Remorseful Spy, Yoshi It explores deep-rooted anti-Semitism in Argentina’s military and police forces, leading up to the 1992 bombing of the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires. A second season, currently in production, extends the timeline to 1994, when he took the lives of over 80 Jews in the bombing of the AMIA Jewish Community Center.

The show takes place in an era of democracy following Argentina’s brutal military dictatorship. Meanwhile, political dissidents and innocents were tortured or disappeared by the government, including a disproportionate number of Jewish victims.

It’s easy to see why Yosi’s story makes for a compelling TV show. The facts are straight out of a Hollywood thriller.

First to investigate the Andinia Project, an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that claims that Jews and Zionists plan to colonize the Patagonian region of Argentina and Chile as a “Jewish State of the Southern Hemisphere” Hired by the Jewish community, Yoshi quickly befriended members of the Jewish community. In Buenos Aires, he became a close friend of a prominent Israeli-Argentine businessman and arms dealer.

The show follows Yoshi as he rises in social standing in the Jewish community of Buenos Aires, starting businesses with some members and falling in love with others. It also shows him reporting to intelligence and police cadres who constantly spew anti-Semitic scourges, in juxtapositions meant to show both the absurdity and permanence of the Andinia Project.

After nearly 15 years of Yosi’s espionage, he began to feel guilty about his involvement in the mission and distanced himself from his handlers.

Yoshi stands among the rubble of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires.Photo: Amazon Prime Video

In 2000, Perez told journalists Miriam Lewin and Horacio Lutsky (authors of Yoshi, the Remorseful Spy) that the information he had gathered, including architectural plans and blueprints, was used for the 1992 and 1994 Israeli embassies. He said he was sure it was used in the bombing. And he said the AMIA building is still the deadliest terrorist attack in Argentina.

While the show contains many details that stay true to history, some creations have been made, such as Yoshi becoming involved in the intricate network of the international arms trade that was never part of the real story. Another difference is that the real Jose Perez got more lovers than the two revealed on the show.

When Perez stopped cooperating fully with his superiors, he transferred to a bureaucratic branch within the police force, moved to the center of the country, and separated from his wife. Fearing his assassination, Perez preemptively recorded testimony and assumed a new identity in witness protection.

Daniel Burman, showrunner and co-director of Yosi, said the show needed to show how conspiracy theories about Jews have driven policy in Argentina over the years, and the impact It continues to resonate to this day.

“The Jewish community was very vulnerable. “In reality there are networks maintained by conspiracies, lies, corruption and impunity that have not been completely disarmed.”

Yoshi captures the social fabric of local Jewish life in addition to the terror and trauma that characterize Jewish life in Argentinean Jews in the post-dictatorial era. A young woman is seen performing an Israeli folk dance. A Jewish choir singing Hatikvah at the Israeli Embassy in Yom Haatzmaut. Young political activists discuss their grievances with Israeli politics. A Shabbat dinner with the elderly led by a local rabbi.

Rabbi Baltar says he was caught off guard by the revelation that Yoshi had been converted while spying on his community, trying to reflect on whether there were any red flags that might have suggested Yoshi’s true motives. I did. But nothing happened.

Filming for the second season, set in 1994, has already begun and will address Yoshi’s quest for redemption.

There’s a hint of that quest in Episode 5 of the first season. In a particularly poignant scene, Yoshi and his Jewish girlfriend’s father, the fictional arms dealer Saul Menagem, sit in Menagem’s private plane. increase. Yosi feels comfortable enough to ask about the Andinia plan in advance.

“I thought you knew about politics,” says Menagem. “It’s an anti-Semitic superstition. It’s very romantic, by the way. It’s a service craze these days.”

Yoshi appears to go through a moment of confusion as he accepts that he was sent on a fool’s errand and that he is a fool.

“But do intelligence agencies eat that rotten fish?” he asks.

“It is contradictory to talk about Argentine intelligence,” says Menagem. “They manipulate people with stories. They need followers and enemies. We Jews are the most obvious.”


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Terrorism and espionage in Argentina’s Jewish community – Australian Jewish News

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